Jan. 23 (UPI) — President Donald Trump said Sunday he has scheduled meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trump said during a White House ceremony he will meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Jan. 31 and expects to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau soon after speaking with him Saturday to begin talks on reworking NAFTA, which he made one of the centerpieces of his campaign for president.
“We’re going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA,” Trump said. “I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. But we’re going to start renegotiating on NAFTA, on immigration, on security at the border.”
During the campaign, Trump was harshly critical of companies that have moved factories from the United States to Mexico. Among the industries he repeatedly talked about was the auto industry, including the threat of a 35 percent tariff on cars imported from the country.
Since Trump won the election, several automakers — Fiat Chrysler, General Motors Hyundai-Kia, among them — have announced plans to invest billions in new or refurbished factories in the United States.
Wilbur Ross, Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary, echoed the president’s sentiment during his nomination hearing, saying NAFTA must “be dealt with.” Ross acknowledged that companies he owns have benefited from shifting jobs out of the United States, and said in many cases those decisions allowed the companies to grow and create other jobs in the country.
“I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade. But I am pro-sensible trade, not pro-trade that is to the disadvantage of the American worker and the American manufacturing community,” Ross said, adding that any country that “plays by the rules” should be welcomed in the United States, and countries that don’t should be punished.
Trump spoke during his inaugural address about working to keep companies operating in the United States and that he would look to force others to bring back operations that were cheaper to move to Mexico because of the trade agreement.
“We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” Trump said Friday.